The subtle art of attracting customers who do business like you and the reward of integrity to high standards operating.
The Best and Worst Customers
Have you ever thought about why certain customers are your favorite or why you don’t like some of them? Because you’re reading this, I am going to make a few assumptions:
- You aren’t annoyed by the vast majority of your customers (if you are, check yourself first).
- You are actively interested in improvement for yourself or your organization.
- You are a person of integrity to very high standards, or strive to be.
- Because you are diligent to be great, you must also be seeking out great customers.
I would be willing to bet that either misaligned integrity or a total lack of integrity is the common denominator between you and your worst customers.
They hired you to be their biggest advocate, to represent them, and to solve their problems because they trust you, right? So, when they don’t return your calls or won’t pay for anything extra that they need, you’re frustrated as you trying to give them the best possible service while they don’t have the integrity to do their best by their own organizations. Or maybe they call and bug you endlessly or demand things that you never agreed to and won’t hear from you unless you give in. They don’t trust you or they want to exploit you. The worst customers.
We all want customers who are accessible and allow us to provide our skills anytime we see the need and who give us the room to get our work done.
So how do we captivate customers who do business like we do? How do we draw the best customers to us?
Different, Not Just Better
Earlier this year, my grandma moved from the house I had known my entire life. She moved into a newer, smaller home in a gated community. After her old home had been made ready for the new buyers, I went by to ensure the sprinkler system had been shut down.
I decided to take one last look around at her now empty house where so many memories were made. As I made my way through the kitchen I came across this sight. This is a picture of the water fixture that supplied water to her ice machine and refrigerator, but to me, this is a picture of integrity:
Most people only see their refrigerators water hookup once or twice – ever – so you may not know why the photo from my grandma’s house was worth capturing. Compare this:
This is what most refrigerator water hook-ups looks like. The craftsman who installed the fixture in my grandma’s house knew what he was installing as did the one who installed this fixture. They were both installing something that would be hidden from the world most of its life.
Consider the workmanship of both jobs and what it says about the two craftsmen. The fixture at my grandma’s house was installed in an attractive enclosure, completely trimmed out by the carpenter. He didn’t consider the job “done” until the trim was perfectly measured, cut, sanded, stained, and installed.
Not only did he do the job, but considering the house is 50 years old, the work held up very well. The joints in the wood are all solid. No cracks, no pulling apart, and it still sits perfectly against the wall after all these years.
Now, the job in the second picture was also “completed.” This craftsman successfully routed the water to the refrigerator by pushing the water line through the sheet-rock and leaving a heaping coil of expensive copper line on the other side.
Mike Michalowicz, in his book Surge makes the claim, “Better is not better. Different is better.” Though you can certainly say that craftsman No. 1 did a better job, I would go as far as to say his entire thought process is very different.
- What can you infer about each of these craftsmen, having now seen their work?
- Which one of these craftsmen can you depend on to do an absolutely thorough, proper job every time?
- Which one of these craftsmen is attracting lower-budget customers?
Root Cause of Differentiation
What we see in each picture is the display of the deep-rooted integrity (or possibly lack thereof) of these two craftsmen. Once you realize this, you can step into each one’s very mind and understand the way they think of their jobs. You can be sure that Craftsman No. 1 is energized by good workmanship and therefore will do the job right, even when no one will ever see. Craftsman No. 2’s mindset is probably transactional. He will take shortcuts where he, the provider, NOT the customer, deems acceptable. Which craftsman would you hire?
Now, my sweet wife would tell you that I often obsess over little things – that I always take notice of tiny blips that 99% of the world would never see – usually the shortcuts taken in the process of someone providing a product or service. (Don’t fret, if you invite us over for burgers I promise I won’t be judging you – I can turn it off.) She embodies abundant grace to put up with my vent sessions that occur every time I see a 95% complete job labeled “complete.”
My patient wife will also testify to my ridiculous gawkings (my own description, not hers) every time I encounter something exceptionally well executed. I’m self-aware enough, yet I can’t stop myself.
For example, I have been known to endlessly blab about how clean our cruise ship was kept on our honeymoon. Anyone who I’ve told about that vacation can tell you confidently that the housekeeping staff wiped down the baseboards of dust several times per week, and that they mopped every floor surface on that ship every hour, and how crisp and tight the bed was made every day.
The occurrence of a good experience for my own pleasure is not usually the cause of my fascination. The reason I get so excited about this stuff is because I know that the degree to which a product or service is provided with excellence is directly correlated to the integrity of the people behind the scene to do the best possible job.
We all have seen those “restored my hope in humanity” videos circulating around social media. For me, seeing and experiencing high standards of work, even in the smallest things, restores my hope that there are organizations and people out there who feed on providing honest, good work to others.
Stand Out to the Ones Who Matter
We all have our favorite (read: best) customers. In our company, we have several key qualities that are common amongst our best customers. I won’t share our entire marketing strategy but some of the things we look for when prospecting are organizations that:
- Take very good care of their employees
- Are over-the-top with keeping their facilities clean from a janitorial standpoint
- Are exceptionally well reviewed among their competitors
- Do not tolerate out-of-date facilities, always proactively upgrading
- Are actively interested in knowing if there is anything they could be doing better
The overwhelming principle we look for? Integrity to do things to the highest standard. In our company we strive for integrity to these same principles. If our prospects already live by integrity to these standards, then we’re a perfect fit for them.
I believe that if we can demonstrate integrity to these principles that come natural to us, buyers of the same nature will come to us. And they have, year after year. (Hint, hint: if we call on you, it is because we have great respect for you.)
Budgets, contract terms and technicalities all fall into place when you are attracting customers who operate the same way you do.
Though the finest details aren’t often noticeable to the general population, consistent integrity to high standards does attract those with a keen eye to find others who do business the same way (aka the customers you want). The little details you obsess about will draw those customers in to you like a moth to a flame, and they will jump through hoops to work with people who “get” them.
Integrity to maintain a high standard of operating principles is what differentiates the decades-long top performers from the organizations that float aimlessly, doomed for mediocrity.
Integrity Captivates the Masses
I am fascinated by how organizations of integrity (and thus the people within) consistently display excellence. It’s true that only the keen eye will notice the smallest details of excellence. But don’t think for a split second that the general population won’t notice your efforts to demonstrate integrity to high standards.
It may be subliminal to the crowd, but the effects and rewards remain. It is something we strive to achieve daily in our company because we believe that integrity is where great work and a great legacy starts.
Take Chick-fil-A for example. If you’ve ever had a bad experience at Chick-fil-A, you would be an exception. Their service isn’t so incredible because of the miserable people working there and the “penny-pinchiness” of the operators. It’s the opposite! The team behind the counter is always smiling. The operators take great care of their people and facilities. They literally express to you that they are having a pleasure in serving you. The integrity of the people who build and run Chick-fil-A restaurants is world-class when it comes to a higher standard of doing business.
When is the last time you saw 30 cars in a Burger King drive-through? Customers flock to Chick-fil-A every-day because they know that they can get a great meal, served very quickly, by a happy person, without a doubt.
We strive for integrity to high standards because it is so effective to attract customers. But also because we believe that integrity is where a great legacy starts.
Integrity in the Veins
Dolese Brothers Co. is a 116-year-old supplier of construction aggregate and ready-mix concrete with over 1000 employees, each one exhibiting traits of the late Roger M. Dolese. Roger Dolese was the visionary and pioneer of the company through its decades of debt-free growth and climb to be one of the most respected companies in their industry. We are proud to call them a customer.
One of my favorite quotes that we use around our company is from Jeff Seeliger of Dolese Brothers Co., who was heard in an interview describing the integrity-legacy of Mr. Dolese.
“He was always the guy who made sure you sweep out the corners [of the room], because the middle area kind of takes care of itself. He was always worried about the details, and if you take care of those little details, the rest of it will happen.”
Dolese concrete mixer truck drivers wash their trucks every day. If you ever see a clean concrete truck in Oklahoma you will know it is a Dolese truck – no other competitor maintains their trucks the way Dolese does. They have a vacuum truck that is taken to each of their many concrete plants to vacuum the parking lots.
Keep in mind that this is an industrial materials plant with heavy equipment and plant operators on site – not a high-exposure property. I can promise you, though, that the men and women who drive Dolese mixer trucks intrinsically understand the importance of cleanliness to their company’s reputation. They will not be seen making a mess.
The integrity-blood of the company’s history runs in the veins of the company’s furthest-reaching members. If you have a need for perfectly consistent concrete, you call Dolese.
You can watch a short video about the powerful and successful culture of Dolese Brothers Co. by on Dolese’s website.
In today’s culture, it’s so easy to be different because so many others are all the same. We, as business people of all industries, should stop describing ourselves as better than our competitors. We should be different from our competitors, thus naturally placing ourselves above of the circle of competition.
You don’t go to KFC because it’s better than Church’s Chicken, you go to Chick-fil-A because it’s a totally different, dependable experience. Become an organization of integrity to make tangible decisions that elevate you in your sector.
Be like the first craftsman. Make your bed every morning. Pick a line item on your budget and double it. Be so different that your competition can’t compete. Pay your employees more. If you are in the convenience store business, clean your bathrooms 24 times per day. If you’re in the fast food industry, remodel your buildings often. If you are a green industry contractor, wash your trucks every day and return missed calls.
Or you can use our services to immediately begin to stand out to the public. If you are a multi-family property manager, invest in mulch twice per year instead of once. If you manage commercial real estate, have the lawn area over-seeded in the fall for year-round green grass. If you’re developing an office complex, budget $300,000 on landscaping instead of $200,000. (And if you are ever in doubt of the ROI, click here) If you can relate to the way we think at our company and want our help, call us at 405-229-8460.
Always be interested in knowing if you could be doing something better, even in the most seemingly insignificant areas. Ask yourself if the people you are doing business with really “get” you and do business the same way. Are they displaying integrity to high-standards in every area? If not, don’t go to Google to find someone else. Be on the lookout and go to the people who captivate you with their actual results that you can witness in person.
These things make you different. Have the integrity to always be different by operating on a level of higher standards. The best customers will find you.
Please comment if you are frustrated by something besides misaligned/poor integrity as the common denominator between you and your worst customers.